Your doctor has told you that you have an underactive thyroid…so now what? You have hypothyroidism-will you need to take thyroid medication for the rest of your life?
Causes of Underactive Thyroid
The thyroid can become underactive for many reasons. For some, this results from an autoimmune condition, where the body’s own immune system attacks the endocrine system and thyroid gland. This means the body interprets the thyroid gland to be foreign to the body and therefore acts to harm it, preventing it from forming the correct amount of thyroid hormones and functioning efficiently.
One common form of hypothyroidism resulting from autoimmune disease is known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This can result in the same symptoms of hypothyroidism and often will cause a lump to form in the neck, which is known as a ‘goiter’.
Other causes of underactive thyroid may include congenital causes or birth defect, meaning a person is born without the ability to produce enough thyroid hormones. Most babies are screened at birth for this condition, to check to see if their thyroid gland is functioning efficiently. Parts of the brain also regulate the thyroid gland and thyroid hormones. If thyroid problems are discovered early and therapy is commenced early enough in the disease this can make a big difference in the patient’s life, although this is not always the case.
When hypothyroidism occurs as a result of brain dysfunction, typically the part of the brain affected is known as the hypothalamus. This is part of the brain that connects the nervous system to the endocrine system, which includes the thyroid gland. The pituitary gland is also involved in hypothyroidism, so if there are problems with the pituitary gland, underactive thyroid may result. As you can see, there are many different things to consider when someone has a sluggish thyroid.
Some people develop hypothyroidism due to injury or another illness. Some doctors simply can’t tell why someone’s thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones.
One thing is certain: treatment is almost always necessary to restore good health!
Underactive Thyroid Treatments
The good news is that if you have an underactive thyroid gland, treatment is readily available to help you begin feeling better. There are many different treatments available for patients with a sluggish thyroid gland.
Many traditional medical providers will start you on thyroid supplementation to help your body begin producing more thyroid hormones. This is relatively standard treatment. Traditionally doses of levothyroxine or similar synthetic or natural thyroid hormones are offered patients to help them overcome underactive thyroid and alleviate symptoms.
Other treatments may include supplementation with iodine if the cause of underactive thyroid is an iodine deficiency in the body. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend supplementation with other natural minerals and vitamins if they find you do not have a healthy diet, or that your diet requires modification to restore you to proper health. There are also specific foods that you can incorporate into your diet to improve your thyroid function, and others that you should avoid as they act to slow thyroid function. A qualified naturopath or nutritionist will be able to help guide you in this regard.
Typically a change in diet and exercise can produce wonders for the individual with thyroid disease. Underactive thyroid can cause patients to gain weight or have trouble losing weight. Once treatment begins patients may find losing weight becomes much less difficult, so you can consult with your healthcare provider about a proper weight reduction and exercise program that can help treat fatigue and restore proper weight balance.
Your healthcare provider may also adjust other medications or remove other medications from your diet that may have contributed to your condition, as certain medications can contribute to hypothyroidism. This should only occur under the supervision of a qualified medical health provider however, as some medications may be essential to your health and wellness.
Typically treatment of hypothyroidism is a lifelong process, however you may find with time, the necessity of long-term treatment with thyroid hormones may change based on your body’s ability to recompensate based on the healthy changes you make in your diet and lifestyle. Our bodies have the unique ability to regenerate every several years. So keep up the good work and pay attention to the recommendations your healthcare provider makes. Be sure to take good care of yourself, and remain positive! There is hope for a long, healthy life!